Tuesday, September 7, 2010 Edition #575

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Today’s Highlights:
1st Flash: THE SCIENCE OF TURNING LEFT   Past issues of GCFlash:
August 31, 2010 Edition #574
August 24, 2010 Edition #573
August 17, 2010 Edition #572
August 10, 2010 Edition #571
Looking for articles from a past issue of GCFlash not listed above? Find them in our Knowledge Base!

On The World Wide Web

Go behind the scenes of a NASCAR team as they prepare for raceday.

Want to know more about camber, caster and toe? Learn what happens when your car goes in for a front end alignment.

Ahoy hearties! The time is fast approaching to talk like a pirate! Learn when and how.

Tip of the Week

New education benefits for veterans were signed into law in July of 2008. Benefits are tiered based on the number of days served on active duty. While the Post-9/11 GI Bill offers greater benefits, figuring out just who is entitled to what can be very confusing. Get the details along with information on applying.


"Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine." - Elvis Presley

Today in History

1896 - A. H. Whiting wins the first closed-circuit auto race which was held in Cranston, RI.

Flash Fact

Bill Elliott holds the record for fastest qualifying lap in NASCAR at 212.809 MPH at Talladega in 1987.

Have a comment about something you read in GCFlash? Suggestions for future articles? Drop us an email!
Weekly Spotlight:

Does your heart race at 6,000 rpm? Learn how GCF can put you behind the wheel of your dream ride.

Our Current Rates:

For a listing of our current deposit and loan rates, visit www.gcfbank.com/rates.aspx.

1st Flash

The National Association of Stock Car Automobile Racing (NASCAR) is winding down its regular season. The final 10 races represent the series' version of a playoff system dubbed the "Chase to the Championship."

So why all the hoopla? What's all the fuss about jumping into the driver's seat and turning left?

Avid fans of the sport know that the thrill extends far past cheering on your favorite driver. They understand that races aren't usually won or lost on the track. The competition begins well before the rubber meets the road.

Folks, allow me to introduce you to the science of turning left.

Let's start with an analogy to the stick-and-ball sports many of you are familiar with. In the National Football League (NFL), every field has standard dimensions of 120 yards end zone to end zone and 160 feet wide. Every baseball field requires 90 feet between bases with 60 feet 6 inches separating the pitcher's mound and batter's box.

Ice rinks used by the National Hockey League (NHL) are all 200 feet long and 85 feet wide with a 28 degree corner radius. NBA courts are 94 feet long and 50 feet wide no matter which town the league visits.

A lot of strategy goes into preparing for game day. You study your opponent to learn their strengths and weaknesses. A game plan is developed to make the best use of your own team's talent to shut down their power performers and attacking their vulnerabilities. You take the field and it's game on.

NASCAR teams face the same competitors week after week. Drivers have to know each other's racing style and personalities to make key decisions on the track. Does Driver A wheel a car more aggressively? Will he spin me out if I pass him? Driver B likes the high lane next to the wall. Might he hit it and bounce back down into me? Driver C is a rookie. Will he move out of my way if he's running much slower than the rest of the field or will he defend his ground and cause a wreck when the faster cars bunch up behind him?

That's where the similarity ends. Actual preparation for the event requires much more attention to detail than the casual observer can fathom.

There is no standard playing field when it comes to race tracks. Length ranges from .526 miles in Martinsville, VA to the 2.66 mile tri-oval in Talladega, AL. The turns can be banked anywhere from Talladega's 33 degrees to the practically flat 9 degrees of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The length of a given race can vary from 218 to 600 miles.

Fuel and tires have to last not only the entire race, but longer in case of a late race caution that brings on overtime. Three attempts may be made to assure a race ends competitively rather than following a pace car.

And contrary to popular myth, drivers have to turn right as well as left at the road courses in Watkins Glen, NY and Somona, CA where the mountains add elevation changes to the mix.

What mix is that, you might be wondering? It's the elusive goal of setting the car up properly to maximize traction. It's calculating exactly how to get the best grip between tire and track for each and every venue you visit. Because, as you may have already guessed, the formula for racing around Talladega is quite different from how you'll have to setup the car to be successful at Martinsville or the Glen.

NASCAR makes the race teams adhere to strict requirements in attempts to make the playing field as safe and level as possible. Certain parts of the car may not deviate in any way, shape or form. Other areas are fair game where teams can pool their genius to come up with the right setup to end the day in Victory Lane.

Race teams must conform to sanctioned body templates that dictate the exact dimensions of the racecar, and differ for the variety of track configurations. For example, cars can gain wicked speeds at a high-banked superspeedway 2 miles or longer. A higher spoiler can help keep the car from launching airborne by creating downforce in the air stream it creates traveling in excess of 200 miles per hour. That isn't necessary on a short track where average speeds are less than 100 miles per hour.

NASCAR dictates fuel-related issues. Every car has the same size fuel cell and mixture. Goodyear provides the same tire construction and compound to every team in the garage.

That leaves the suspension. And while there are tolerances the team has to stay within, there is plenty of room for experimenting with the proper setup to achieve that all-important traction.

Teams may alter the camber or caster of the spindle between the upper and lower ball joints. You don't have to worry about such things with your personal ride, your mechanic has it covered. These are among the measurements considered when you get your front end aligned.

The caster is the difference between the front tires' vertical centerline and that of the steering axis. Your car is usually set between +2 and +6 degrees.

But a racecar has different factors to take into account. Primarily, the track they'll be racing on. The steeper the angle of caster, the more responsive your steering. So at Daytona, the caster might be setup with both wheels somewhere between 7 and 8 degrees. But at Martinsville, you might have 2 degrees in your left front and 4 in your right front to make the car steer more naturally to the right on such a short track.

The camber is similar but measures the wheel leaning inward or outward in relationship to the vehicle. Negative camber results in a wheel leaning inward with its top closer to the vehicle than the bottom. Positive is the opposite. Teams tinker with camber to find the right degree to provide the best contact and traction. But too much and you'll be in the pits multiple times with a blown tire. Once you set the camber, you're stuck with it for the entire race. It isn't something you can adjust during the race.

Teams can alter their shock packages within limits NASCAR mandates. This is a change that can be made by the pit crew mid-race to make a car looser or tighter on the track. Too tight and a car won't turn, too loose and its rear end dances out of control. A car might be tight going into a turn and loose coming out of it. Or loose in one turn, tight in another. Even the most elite teams in the sport can struggle finding the right balance.

Once you do hit on the right setup for a given track, jot it down quickly in your notebook. But only pay it nominal heed. For your next visit may find the weather hotter than the first. Or you might be racing at night rather than the heat of the day. Track temperature plays a large role in tire wear and track speed. Rubber breaks down with heat, giving almost a hydroplaning effect to the ride. Grip is best in cooler temperatures.

The role of the engineering shop in NASCAR is equal to that of the driver. So it comes as no surprise that the teams best-funded, who can afford the best talent and access the most current technology, will regularly find themselves competing for the series title year after year. Those less-funded will begin working on next year's efforts and have a chance to experiment a bit the rest of the season.

I've only just scratched the surface here. If I were to cover every technical aspect that can affect the results of a race, you would still be reading this article when the green flag drops on Sunday. So instead of reading further, experience it for yourself. Watch an event through a technical eye and prepare to feel your heart race.

2nd Flash

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent GCF Bank, its management or its policies.

Country music star Alan Jackson stirs us to remember the darkest day in our nation's history when he asks "Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?"

The painful memory it awakens is vivid to us all.

I was alone at work that day when my husband called. "A plane just hit the World Trade Center." His words were unimaginable. It had to be a freak accident, it just didn't make sense.

A few short minutes later I answered the phone again to learn the second plane just struck and two others had deviated from their normal route. One struck the Pentagon, the other downed in a Pennsylvania field when passengers thwarted the terrorist's plans to strike the White House.

The reality just couldn't sink in. Throughout history, America prided herself on stopping hostile fire before it reached our ground. We were secure here.

What a difference a day makes.

The immediate aftermath saw a nation mourning nearly 3000 innocent victims from 70 different countries. Americans were united in shock, spirit and purpose.

The typical conspiracy theories emerged. But the masses were in agreement, urging our officials to take whatever steps necessary to prevent such a tragedy from occurring on shores ever again.

The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) developed new guidelines for those traveling on airlines. Grandma and grandpa can no longer wait at the end of ramp, anxiously searching for their grandchildren's faces amongst the other arriving passengers.

The USA Patriot Act was passed, easing restrictions on information gathering in attempts to identify future plots before they are carried out. Protectors of our civil liberties protested the threat to individual privacy. Proponents of the Act were quite willing to sacrifice their own privileges in an effort to circumvent future attacks.

The Pentagon damage was repaired within a year with a Memorial built adjacent to the building.

A new office tower was completed in 2006 where 7 World Trade Center formerly stood. What will become one of the tallest buildings in North America is under construction at 1 World Trade Center, slated for completion in 2013.

Construction underway on the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, PA is expected to be ready for the 10th anniversary of the attacks next year.

Yet physical damage is the easiest to repair. And the very act that united us nine short years ago threatens to further divide us today.

The proposal to build a mosque two blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center has brought heated controversy. Supporters believe the mosque will serve as a symbol of unity. Opponents view it as disrespect to those who gave their lives on September 11, 2001. The mere proposal has served to fracture the American people.

Rather than uniting as a nation to mourn the losses suffered on this tragic anniversary, one Florida church is planning to burn Korans.

Anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. is stronger today than it was in 2001 when the smoke finally stopped smoldering. Emotions are still blazing.

The attacks were rightly attributed to an extremist group when they first occurred. That fact seems to have been long forgotten in the years since.

Perhaps those terrorists gained even more than they hoped when planning their deeds of destruction. For the aftershocks are still being felt nine years later.

Financial News

The glass is half full this week with recent good news on private- sector payrolls, manufacturing and housing economic indicators. In addition, the yield on the 10-year Treasury increased last week to 2.71 percent on Friday, from 2.47 percent earlier in the week. The news has helped ease growing concern about a double-dip recession. The other half of the glass has mixed news with unemployment rising to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent the previous week.

Steps toward economic growth are being tossed around in the form of tax incentives for business. President Barack Obama will call for increasing bonus depreciation for purchased business equipment from 50 percent to 100 percent and extending the tax break through 2011, a White House official said. The proposal is to make the change retroactive to Sept. 8, 2010 with an expected cost to taxpayers of $30 billion. The measure applies to capital investment including office, factory and transportation equipment. This type of infrastructure will reduce the cost of business improvements or expansion, encouraging job growth. In this election year, we'll see what gets done!

Today’s Market Rates
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Dow Jones Industrial Average
(Down 87.36 or 0.84% since 12/31/09)
10,340.69 (-1.03%)
S&P 500
(Down 23.26 or 2.09% since 12/31/09)
1,091.84 (-1.15%)
(Down 60.26 or 2.66% since 12/31/09)
2,208.89 (-1.11%)
10 Year Treasury Bond Yield 2.609%  
British Sterling 1.5366  
Euro 1.2697  
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